In this episode we talk with Victoria from ancienesthetique. Victoria is an expat living in central France who sells vintage treasures. She talks about the importance of sturdy shelving, photography, her blog, email list and more!
Victoria first opened a shop on Etsy many years ago when she was living in England. Her shop consisted of jewelry, coats and other things she’d made. Victoria says she sold a few things, but her commitment to she shop was basically zero. It was kinda a side hobby, with no research or investment going into learning more about Etsy. It was an after thought and in the back of her mind. Life went on, Victoria traveled quite a bit, got married, moved to France and had children. It was when her son was a few months old that she and her husband decided to try Etsy out again.
Victoria was finding wonderful antiques in France and says she really just needed an excuse to get them into her house. Her shop has definitely been a work in progress with many ups and downs. Most of these came from Victoria’s life being busy in many different directions, but recently she decided to really focus on her shop and see where it would take her.
Black Espresso Cups
Victoria’s first sale was of course very exciting! She sold two black espresso cups that had yellow interior and were according to her, very cute. Not knowing much about packaging, she simply put them in an envelope and away they went…straight to the floor where they broke! She hadn’t even made it to the post office. She says this was her inauspicious beginning, but from there her shop began to grow. Of course Victoria’s packaging improved and there was less dropping of breakables involved;)
The French way is the only way
According to Victoria, the French are quite bureaucratic in the way they do things. Like many of us in many different countries, the French have a certain idea about how things should be done. And they believe this is the only way whatever it is should be done. So, when Victoria was first shipping things from her shop she would have many arguments with the employees in the post office. Perhaps her items to be sent weren’t in a certain box which were sold in the post office and were very expensive. Maybe a certain lady working there thought Victoria wasn’t packing her items just right. Eventually, Victoria realized that this lady actually had a point! She did need to package her items correctly and legibly. Victoria has finally traversed language barriers and cultural difference to come to a place where sending her packages is now a routine;)
Changes and transitions
Victoria is currently teaching English at a college right down the road from her home. However, she is in the process of setting up a “studio” of sorts to keep all her inventory in. Her husband has set up a photography table for her there with lights that ensure good quality photos. She wants her pictures to be more consistent which is very important for her Etsy shop. (Scoop 10:00) Victoria says it’s a slow transition but she’s simply taking one step at a time. She recently renewed her interest in social media, knowing how helpful these tools can be to the success of your shop. With limited time and funds to dump into her shop, it’s a slow steady climb to reach her goals. One of her goals is to have six hundred listings. Because she’s selling vintage and everything is one of a kind, Victoria believes it’s helpful to have more inventory on her shop. She finds that sales are consistent but come in spurts. (Scoop 11:00) The more opportunities there are for buyers, the wider the net is cast for customers, the higher the chance of a sale. There is definitely something to be said about having a larger inventory where a buyer might have come in looking for a certain item, but will leave with three others simply because they saw them and loved them.
In France there is once a month sale in many villages that are similar to a community garage sale in America. Throughout the village people will empty their attics of what they no longer want, selling them on the sidewalks outside. This is where much of Victoria’s inventory comes from. Unless someone has contacted her and asked for a specific item, she doesn’t set out to buy something in particular.
Terrible happenings and sturdy shelving
About two years ago Victoria was storing her inventory in boxes on a couple shelves her husband had built in their utility room. Quite sturdy shelves…or so they thought. Victoria and her kids were sitting in their kitchen having lunch when they heard a “mighty crash” as she described it! Victoria happens to live between two farms and her first thought was that one of the farmers had blown something up. She quickly went outside, thinking it was strange that she couldn’t see the farmer anywhere. Suddenly, it dawned on her what might have happened. Running to the utility room, she tried opening the door and couldn’t because all of her items and shelving had come crashing down in front of the door! Victoria ended up losing almost seventy percent of inventory. She said she couldn’t even cry, she just felt astounded and overwhelmed at the prospect of resourcing all of her inventory. Trevor, Victoria’s husband, cleaned up the mess because, as Victoria laughed and said, “It was clearly a shelving issue and not an overstocking issue!” Though there were quite a few discussions between them about which of those two issues was actually the culprit for the terrible disaster! Victoria also had to update her shop with listings that survived with a crack or chip. Thankfully, chips and cracks are all part of being vintage and she was still able to sell many of the items that stood strong through the shocking fall.
In the aftermath
After losing so much of her inventory, Victoria decided to revamp what she was selling. Instead of selling breakable items, she thought she’d try old newspapers, journals and keys. But, she is naturally drawn to fun little espresso cups and the like. Eventually these items found there way back into her shop. All her inventory (including breakables) are now stored in a safer area under lock and key!
Twice as nice
Victoria doesn’t normally sell higher end antiques on Etsy. Usually her inventory consists of smaller items like some we mentioned earlier in this blog. However, Victoria came across a beautiful antique Napoleon III travel box that she decided to list, knowing its value was much higher than what she normally sold. After renewing the box a couple times with no offers, she presumed it was still in her husband’s work shop as she clearly hadn’t sold it. Finally, Victoria had a buyer for the box and arranged a layaway payment plan with the woman who was making the purchase. Once the price and payments were negotiated, Victoria asked Trevor to bring the box back out of his workshop. Low and behold a client of Trevor’s had sold it in his shop a few weeks before!! Victoria then had to go back to her buyer and tell her that the box had already been sold. Strangely enough, the woman vanished into thin air. After reaching out and letting her know what happened, Victoria never heard from her again. Thankfully there were no upset feelings and Victoria can laugh about the twice sold box:) Gordon thinks the vanished customer might have actually been the buyer in Trevor’s customer’s shop!
Blogging for the win
Victoria loves to write and so does her husband. They are currently combining their talents to start a blog for each of their unique talents. Trevor restores high end antiques and makes handmade items as well Several of these are listed in Victoria’s shop! Victoria is diving into writing about life in France as an expat. France is a beautiful country where great value is placed on old things. Even old vine covered buildings are left to stand the test of time. So there are lots of opportunities to write about all the goings on around her. Check out Victoria’s blog posts at ancienesthetique.com. (At the time this Jam was done, Victoria was about to write a post about old French doors. It’s now posted and I went to check it out for myself. What a truly charming post! Definitely read it for yourself.)
Email list strategy
Victoria uses a service like MailChimp to send out emails to subscribers. Often after a sale she’ll email a buyer directly with a follow up email. In the email she’ll ask them to subscribe to her shop and follow her. She also uses her email list for promotions of her listings and blog posts, but she’s very careful to not spam her customers. She will strategically send emails when she’s offering a discount and to promote her blog posts. (Scoop 27:30)
Victoria and Trevor not only combine there skills at writing, but they collaborate creatively as well. While recently out hunting for her next listing, Victoria happened upon quite the unusual find: a whole stash of ancient test tubes! She’d seen some creative ideas on Pinterest and after chatting it over with Trevor a unique collaboration came to life: test tube rack bud vases! In fact, several of these are still available on Victoria’s Etsy shop. Run quick and purchase your next unique and unusual gift! Victoria also has a great blog post about this fantastic find.
Simple is superior
When Victoria first started out on Etsy she didn’t believe photos or descriptions were a big deal. As long as the item was great everything else would take care of itself. She didn’t worry about lighting, quality, or descriptions in her listings. Through trial and error and also looking at other sellers photos, she finally realized that photos and descriptions really can make a huge difference in what you’re listing. Victoria’s sister is also a photographer who helps her tirelessly look through photos taken to choose the right pictures for her shop. Also, because of what she’s selling, Victoria and opted to keep her photos simple, usually only featuring the item itself. For her, focusing on the item itself is more important than props used in the picture.
Her biggest struggles
When Gordon asked Victoria what her biggest struggle has been as a seller on Etsy, she was quick to reply, “Dropping things!” We love her sense of humor! One of her serious struggles has been ascertaining the value of an item. She admits this is more of Trevor’s forte as he restores antiques. However, learning what to buy and buying things she might not necessarily be drawn to herself has been a learning curve. She has found that turning to her local Etsy group, Instagram, Pinterest, and other sellers on Etsy has been a huge help. All of these can assist in learning the value of a certain item or items similar.
Descriptions can also be time consuming. Everything Victoria sells in one of a kind, so finding the correct wording for each listing can be tedious. This is especially true when you have multiple items that are similar yet different. The contrast to this is when she finds something she’s really excited about selling. Descriptions tend to come a bit easier when items are especially unique.
Where to find Victoria
You can browse through all Victoria’s awesome vintage finds on her Etsy shop, ancienesthetique. And make sure to listen to this week’s Jam! The guys and Victoria have riveting discussions about remote plumbers, facebook usage, English lessons and Etsy shop deactivation!